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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

11/27/23 pdf
November 27, 2023

Should we make celebrities pay for their off-stage transgressions?

R Kelly has in the past been embroiled in legal scandals, culminating in his 2002 indictment for offenses related to child pornography
R Kelly has in the past been embroiled in legal scandals, culminating in his 2002 indictment for offenses related to child pornography

For whatever reason, consumers of American pop culture are fascinated by Hollywood train wrecks. Britney Spears never received more attention than when she had her breakdown, which manifested itself in her shaving her head. Amanda Bynes put herself back on pop culture’s radar as the outrageous tweets kept pouring out. Miley Cyrus launched her “Bangerz” tour this year with tremendous ticket sales after her twerk fest at the MTV Music Awards.

The hotter the mess, the more likely we are to obsess over celebrities. We buy their music, we go to their concerts, and we obsessively read every E! News article published. Celebrity breakdowns range from the outrageous to the entertaining, from the scary to the downright uncomfortable and we are content to watch them unfold in all of their crazy glory.

We, as consumers, overlook these breakdowns and continue to support the celebrities as artists. However, just how far are we willing to go to overlook a celebrity’s personal life and still buy into their music? Where do we draw the line between the forgivable and the unforgivable, giving us reason to boycott their music?
So this begs two big questions: Should artists face professional backlash in their careers when they mess up in their personal lives? Also, does the public, as media consumers, have a responsibility to boycott artists who don’t uphold good standards of personal conduct?

Let’s look closer at the recent Hollywood meltdowns of Amanda Bynes and Miley Cyrus, two wholesome childhood stars who have, for lack of a better phrase, become train wrecks. They’re entertaining train wrecks, but train wrecks nonetheless. Yet, we are willing to forgive their craziness because we’re sympathetic.

Miley Cyrus is just another Disney star desperately trying to burn every last vestige of her innocent Hannah Montana identity, and so while her actions appear crazy, they are all very calculated. As consumers, we understand and can overlook that. Amanda Bynes gets our sympathy card because she was just another childhood star falling into the unfortunate pattern of high-profile meltdowns.
So what does this say about us? We can forgive a lot when it comes to our favorite stars, as long as we can sympathize with them.

But it seems that lately we are becoming just too willing to overlook the messier aspects of a celebrity’s personal life. Accepting craziness is one thing, but overlooking criminal records is a whole different issue that is becoming too relevant lately.

Chris Brown put his girlfriend in the hospital for goodness’ sake, and yet he still came out with two albums that debuted at number one! Because WE let them. We, as consumers, are able to overlook his domestic abuse scandal and still allow him to rake in millions off his albums. We still vote for him in the award shows and we still show support for him despite a criminal record of domestic abuse, something we collectively deem wrong. Why?
If you ask me, we shouldn’t be so forgiving on all aspects of celebrities’ unsavory personal lives because it makes it seem as though that behavior is okay. Sure, Chris Brown’s songs are catchy and I even find myself singing along to “Don’t Wake Me Up” as I’m driving, but that doesn’t mean I’ll go as far as to buy his album and concert tickets, because I think he’s a deplorable human being who is being let off too easily for abusing his girlfriend.
Which is why I also find Lady Gaga’s new single is bothersome. “Do What U Want,” a catchy pop anthem where Gaga partners with R. Kelly and implores him to “do what you want with my [Lady Gaga’s] body”.
For those that don’t know R. Kelly’s history, he was indicted in Chicago back in 2002 on 21 counts of having sex with a minor, which were later reduced to soliciting a minor for child pornography, seven counts of videotaping the acts, and seven counts of producing child pornography.

Still want him to do what he wants with your body?

This isn’t the only overtly sexual song he has come out with since his various sex scandals, either. Why are we letting someone charged with childhood pornography get away with singing these songs? R. Kelly may not “see anything wrong with a little bump ‘n grind,” but I sure do.
And while there has been backlash against both Chris Browns and R. Kelly’s professional career, they are still doing very well for themselves and selling music. Even though we seem content to tear them and their reputations apart, it still doesn’t seem to change our affinity for their music.
The question is, should it?